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Lions Roar : July 2017
In simply being who he is, His Holiness the Dalai Lama exemplifies what it means to embody the noble ideals of Tibet’s Buddhist faith while being an active participant in today’s world. As the leading voice of compassion on the global stage, he reminds us of the fundamental qualities that define each one of us as a fellow human, on the same journey that is life. THUPTEN JINPA is a longtime translator for the Dalai Lama and author of A Fearless Heart: How the Courage to Be Compassionate Can Change Our Lives. The Ethicist Sylvia Boorstein When I returned home from a trip to hear His Holiness the Dalai Lama give teachings, my colleague Sally Armstrong asked, “Did His Holiness say anything new?” I laughed, and Sally did too, at the apparent silliness of her question. His Holiness is probably the most widely recognized representative of what the Buddha taught. To all who know his face, he represents peace. Yet at the heart of it, he is a Buddhist, and with the Buddha’s teachings being two and half millennia old, imagining something new in a tradition that has endured so long is a bit of a stretch. After a moment’s thought, though, I told Sally that His Holiness had, in fact, said something I had not heard him say before. He had said, “I am not interested in whether or not a person is a Buddhist. I am interested in whether or not they are an ethical person.” I’ve heard that this is an idea he is teaching regularly now. This aligns with what I am seeing in the contemporary Bud- dhist teaching community that I’m a part of. I myself am emphasizing compassion as an attribute of wisdom, and dedi- cation to ethics as a path to wisdom. In a world so beleaguered by greed, hatred, and delusion, the most immediate remedy— one that is non-parochial and therefore available to everyone— is ethical, honest kindness, just as the Dalai Lama says. SYLVIA BOORSTEIN is a psychologist and leading teacher of Insight Meditation. The Ordinary Become Extraordinary Jon Kabat-Zinn In my experience of spending time with him over the years, the Dalai Lama embodies on a regular basis what is deepest and best in all of us, by virtue of our being human. In that sense, he is not special, as he himself never ceases pointing out. But for qualities such as equanimity and kind- ness to come out in us and flourish usually requires cultivation, which is what meditation is really about. Then, what is “not special” becomes very special indeed, and what is ordinary becomes extraordinary. Here, I am not talking just about His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Imagine what the world would be like if more of us were able to undertake that cultivation. If motivated by our own dissatisfaction and suffering, our intuition as to where real hap- piness might lie, and our love for the beauty in the world and in life itself—including the unfamiliar other which sometimes scares us—we realize we are so much bigger than our fears and narratives about the world and who we are. Then, we are just as we are, only awake to it. Nothing is dif- ferent, except everything. JON KABAT-ZINN is the founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. The Heart of Compassion Roshi Joan Halifax During a talk on compassion I gave at a neuroscience meeting, I shared with the Dalai Lama some words from a clinician who spoke about working with dying people. I saw His Holiness put his hands together and bow his head, his eyes filling with tears, when he heard the story of this doctor selflessly taking care of a woman with breast cancer. It was remarkable to see how His Holiness shifted from a brief moment of empathy and seeming distress to compassion. I also saw this when visiting His Holiness’ residence in Dharamsala, where Tibetan pilgrims show up for a blessing after a long and dangerous trip to India. Shifting out of an intense conversation about neuro- science, his eyes softened as he gazed at the pilgrim before him. He took hold of their hand, offering a prayer and perhaps words of encouragement. A breath later, he would turn back to his neu- roscience colleagues, and engage in the most technical conver- sation about neural pathways and the nature of consciousness! Once I approached him with a photo of a young Nepali boy named Tsering who had drowned saving the life of an American doctor who had been knocked into a river by a huge stone. The doctor would surely have lost her life had Tsering not jumped into the boiling Himalayan river and grabbed a board for her to hang on to. Though an excellent swimmer, Tsering got caught in a powerful eddy and was swept downriver in the relentless monsoon-charged current. Her life was saved, but his was lost. Shortly after, I took a khata (a Tibetan ceremonial scarf ) and Tsering’s photo to Dharmasala on behalf of his mother, in the hope that I could ask His Holiness to pray for an auspicious rebirth for her son. When I shared the story with him, time seemed to stop. His Holiness was totally alert, his eyes tender. The space immedi- ately around him was still. His Holiness said that Tsering would LION’S ROAR | JULY 2017 54